Spheroid-Based Tissue Engineering Strategies for Regeneration of the Intervertebral Disc

Int J Mol Sci. 2022 Feb 25;23(5):2530. doi: 10.3390/ijms23052530.


Degenerative disc disease, a painful pathology of the intervertebral disc (IVD), often causes disability and reduces quality of life. Although regenerative cell-based strategies have shown promise in clinical trials, none have been widely adopted clinically. Recent developments demonstrated that spheroid-based approaches might help overcome challenges associated with cell-based IVD therapies. Spheroids are three-dimensional multicellular aggregates with architecture that enables the cells to differentiate and synthesize endogenous ECM, promotes cell-ECM interactions, enhances adhesion, and protects cells from harsh conditions. Spheroids could be applied in the IVD both in scaffold-free and scaffold-based configurations, possibly providing advantages over cell suspensions. This review highlights areas of future research in spheroid-based regeneration of nucleus pulposus (NP) and annulus fibrosus (AF). We also discuss cell sources and methods for spheroid fabrication and characterization, mechanisms related to spheroid fusion, as well as enhancement of spheroid performance in the context of the IVD microenvironment.

Keywords: annulus fibrosus; cell therapy; intervertebral disc degeneration; nucleus pulposus; regenerative medicine.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Annulus Fibrosus*
  • Humans
  • Intervertebral Disc Degeneration* / pathology
  • Intervertebral Disc Degeneration* / therapy
  • Intervertebral Disc* / pathology
  • Quality of Life
  • Tissue Engineering / methods